Women make up 27.6% of sources in first month

We completed our first month’s worth of Gender Checks last week and the results were, well, not terribly surprising.

Our findings are close to being in line with other studies that have been done on gender representation in the news, and, though the results aren’t encouraging for women, they do tell us that our process seems to be working.

Before we fill you in on the results we’d like to remind our readers that this is just a single month’s worth of data from our simple Gender Checks. We hope you understand the limitations of this data, however telling. We’ve only sampled a few articles from eight news sites. Further research is needed to verify any validity across the board.

Jan. 18 – Feb. 18, 2011

We reviewed 38 articles, two in each Gender Check. Each geographical region had five Gender Checks, with the exception of the South, which had four (We missed one week).

For each Gender Check, we looked at two websites — one associated with a newspaper and one that was online-only. We recorded information such as the gender of the author and the breakdown of the genders of the human sources referenced in the articles among other details.  (For more on what Gender Checks are, read our introductory post here.)

Overall, these were the findings:


The articles contained 144 male sources and 55 female sources, which put women at about 27. 6 percent of the human sources referenced in these articles. This is a slightly higher percentage of female sources than the Global Media Monitoring Project found in 2010 — approximately 23 percent of the news subjects on the 84 websites monitored were women.

Here’s how it broke down by geographic region:

  • West: 29 males, 17 females (Women at 37 percent)
  • Northeast: 65 males, 19 females (Women at 22.6 percent)
  • Midwest: 34 males, 10 females (Women at 22.7 percent)
  • South: 16 male, 9 female (Women at 36 percent)

And, as an additional aspect we’re interested to study over time, here’s the breakdown by news sites associated with a traditional newspaper and those that are not.

  • Newspaper website: 66 males, 31 females (Women at 32 percent)
  • Online-only: 78 males, 24 females (Women at 23.5 percent)

As we did our Gender Checks this month, we tried to provide context as we could when the gender gap in the sourcing was particularly stark — such as the number of women in that profession (like this one on female judges) or in that political arena (like this one on women in the Missouri Legislature) — because sometimes that becomes a factor in source selection. It’s an aspect of this issue that we’ll continue to look at in the future.


Overall, 11 articles were written by an individual woman and 19 by a single man. In addition, three articles had a shared byline with a man and a woman, four were shared bylines by men, and one was written by three men and one woman. If we just look at the articles written by a single author, women made up 36.7 percent of the authors — roughly what the GMMP in 2010 found.

Here’s a look by geographic region:

  • West: 5 by an individual woman, 4 by a man, 1 by a man and a woman
  • Northeast: 1 by a woman, 6 by one to three men, 2 by a man and a woman, 1 by three men and one woman
  • Midwest: 2 by a woman, 8 by men (one of which was by two men)
  • South: 3 by a woman, 5 by men (one of which was written by two men)

And, here’s the look by news website association:

  • Newspaper website: 8 by a woman, 8 by a man or multiple men, 3 by a man and a woman
  • Online-only: 3 by a woman, 15 by a man, 1 by three men and one woman

When looking at the gender gap in the authors, we’ll also need to keep in mind the make-up of the individual news website’s staff and who is on duty to publish to the web on the day we do our Gender Checks each week. Those factors could play a role in our final results and are elements we’ll be looking into in the future.

We’ll be posting our results like this on a monthly and quarterly basis. As time goes by, we’ll be looking for other trends, including the subjects featured as lead articles on these news websites and what kind of correlation that may have to the gender of the author and the sources. We’ll also be seeking out and sharing the existing explanations on why we see the trends we do.

This is only the beginning of the data we hope to gather here at The Gender Report. Stay tuned for our weekly Gender Checks from each region. Additionally, we’ll be exploring other ways of looking at gender representation in the news in coming posts.

We’re also interested in your feedback. How are we doing? What information are you interested in when it comes to gender representations in online news? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or e-mail us at genderreport@gmail.com.

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